Drought in major U.S. wheat-growing regions over the past few years is well-documented. The persistent dry conditions acutely impacted U.S. wheat yield and increased abandonment, with 2023/24 production coming in 6% below the pre-drought five-year average. Now, entering the second half of the marketing year, the focus has shifted to the 2024 harvest and its impact on both U.S. and global supply and demand. Although it is early, optimism has begun to bloom for the 2024 winter wheat harvest, and the following highlights the factors that have helped boost the U.S. wheat outlook.

Acreage Down, But Conditions Improved

The Winter Wheat and Canola Seedings Report, published on Jan. 12, put the preliminary winter wheat acreage at 34.4 million acres (m.a.) (34.3 million hectares), down 6% from 2023 but still 4% ahead of the five-year average. The hard red winter (HRW) wheat area is estimated at 24.0 m.a. (9.7 million hectares), down 5% on the year, while the soft red winter (SRW) area is approximately 6.89 m.a. (2.8 million hectares), a 7% decrease. The white winter wheat (including soft white and hard white winter) area came in at 3.5 m.a. (1.4 million hectares). Desert Durum® seedings in Arizona and California for the 2024 harvest are estimated at 65,000 acres (26,300 hectares) total, up 16% from 2023 and 48% below 2022.

This bar chart shows U.S. wheat planted area by class between 2013/14 to 2023/24.

According to the Winter Wheat and Canola Seedings Report, published on Jan. 12, the winter wheat acreage is estimated at 34.4 m.a., down 6% from 2023 but still 4% ahead of the five-year average. The HRW area is estimated at 24.0 m.a., SRW at 6.89 ma, and the white winter wheat area came in at 3.5 m.a. Desert Durum® seedings in Arizona and California are estimated at a combined 65,000 acres. Source: USDA Winter Wheat and Canola Seedings Report.

Moving toward fall of 2023, moisture helped replenish dry soil in the U.S. Southern Plains, aided planting, and supported early-season growth and emergence, while making visible improvements in the U.S. Drought Monitor. According to USDA, as of Jan. 30, 2024, winter wheat area in drought registered at 17%, down from 22% the week prior and 58% last year. Meanwhile, the last aggregate USDA Crop Progress Report, published on Nov. 27, 2023, put 50% of winter wheat in the good to excellent category, the highest since 2020.

This line chart shows the percentages of U.S. winter wheat rated "good to excellent" from 2015 to 2024.

The last national USDA Crop Progress Report put 50% of the U.S. winter wheat crop in good to excellent condition, the highest since 2020. Source: USDA NASS Data.

Despite the decreased acreage, the cautious optimism about wheat conditions suggests the potential for improved yield and reduced abandonment for the 2024 harvest. Improved yields will provide a welcome boost to U.S. wheat production, helping improve supply and relieving pressure on the U.S. balance sheet and wheat prices.

An Early State-by-State Snapshot

Comments from producers at a recent meeting of the U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) Wheat Quality Committee echoed the optimistic sentiment. However, despite the objectively improved crop outlook from the year prior, winter conditions have started to vary as the season progresses, serving as a reminder that much can change before harvest time.

Following are condition recaps in major winter wheat-producing states from committee members and National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) data as of Jan. 28:

Kansas. Data from NASS rates 54% of Kansas winter wheat good to excellent, and optimism has bloomed regarding the 2024 harvest. Kansas wheat farmer and USW Secretary-Treasurer elect Gary Millershaski highlighted visible improvements to wheat stands compared to the previous year.

Texas. NASS data put Texas wheat conditions at 42% good to excellent, while Texas farmers remain optimistic about current conditions.

Oklahoma. An Oklahoma farmer commented that soil moisture remains adequate, and the wheat entered dormancy in good condition. Oklahoma crop conditions rated 63% of the crop in the good to excellent category.

Colorado. About 61% of the crop sits in the good to excellent category, though winds and dry weather this winter may cause some condition deterioration.

Nebraska. According to a Nebraska farmer, rain during planting helped boost conditions, and the stands continue to benefit from the soil moisture. Current conditions put Nebraska winter wheat at 69% good to excellent.

South Dakota. South Dakota Wheat Commission CEO Jon Kleinjan commented that the state’s HRW wheat was seeded with adequate moisture. As good snow cover remains, he is optimistic about the 2024 crop. Likewise, NASS put 53% of winter wheat in good to excellent.

Montana. Approximately 41% of the HRW crop sits in the good category; however, cold and a lack of snow coverage have negatively impacted crop conditions this winter.

USDA/NOAA Map of Winter Wheat in Drought from Jan. 30, 2024.

According to the weekly USDA Agriculture in Drought Report, as of Jan. 30, 2024, 17% of U.S. winter wheat resides in areas experiencing drought, down from 22% last week and much improved from 58% last year. Source: U.S. Agriculture in Drought.

More Data to Come

The upcoming USDA Prospective Plantings Report will provide preliminary estimates for spring wheat, durum, and the white spring wheat area and update the winter wheat estimates. It is important to remember that the 2024 harvest is still months away, and conditions can and will change as the crop year progresses. Nonetheless, even after an extended drought, U.S. wheat farmers remain resilient and committed to growing a reliable supply of high-quality wheat for their customers around the world.

By USW Market Analyst Tyllor Ledford


On Jan. 30, 2024, Casey Chumrau, CEO of the Washington Grain Commission, offered compelling testimony supporting the crucial infrastructure of dams and locks on the Columbia Snake River System (CSRS) at a U.S. House Energy, Climate, and Grid Security Subcommittee hearing. U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) and the National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG) sent separate letters with their observations of the essential nature of the CSRS for U.S. wheat export competitiveness.

Following are excerpts from Chumrau’s testimony.

Grain growers in the Pacific Northwest (PNW) rely on the Columbia Snake River System, and the Lower Snake River Dams (LSRD) in particular, for their livelihoods. More than 55 percent of all U.S. wheat exports move through the PNW by barge or rail. Specifically, 10 percent of wheat that is exported from the United States passes through the four locks and dams along the Lower Snake River. This is especially important for our state because Washington is the fourth largest wheat exporter in the nation, exporting 90% of the wheat produced in the state. Across the agriculture industry, the Columbia Snake River System is the second largest gateway for soybean and corn exports coming from as far as the Midwest. The river system also serves as an important channel to bring crop inputs, like potash, to farmers in the region who need fertilizer to produce the safe and affordable food supply that is found on every American’s table.

Casey Chumrau, CEO, Washington Grain Commission, giving testimony on Columbia Snake River System Jan. 30, 2024, to a U.S. House subcommittee hearing.

Casey Chumrau, CEO, Washington Grain Commission, giving testimony on Columbia Snake River System Jan. 30, 2024, to a U.S. House Energy, Climate, and Grid Security Subcommittee hearing.

Economic Impact

Washington’s agriculture industry, and its ability to produce and export products globally, are critical to the state and region’s economy. The total value of wheat exported through the PNW is nearly $4 billion per year.

For Washington, the state is among the top 20 states for agricultural exports in the nation, with over $8 billion in Washington-grown or processed food and agriculture exports in 2022. A significant volume of food and agriculture products from other states including soybeans, wheat, and corn are exported through Washington state ports each year. Once these pass-through exports are combined with Washington-grown or processed exports, the total value reaches over $23 billion.

The Washington wheat industry alone contributed over $3.1 billion to the state’s economy in 2022, with a heightened impact in rural areas. In the same year, total direct employment associated with Washington wheat production amounted to 3,672 jobs in 2022. Indirect and induced employment also grew and supported another 11,676 jobs.

The impact that Washington farmers have on their local and regional economy is similar in communities across the country. In addition to direct sales of farm goods and commodities, farmers contribute to the economy and support other rural businesses through purchases of farm business inputs – everything from seed and fertilizer to business services. Additionally, the personal purchases of both farmers and their employees help to stimulate local economies and keep small businesses ruining.

Locks and dams on the Lower Snake River and the Columbia River provide essential infrastructure for moving U.S.-grown wheat to high-value markets around the world. We cannot overstate the positive value they create for U.S. farms, [the] economy of the Pacific Northwest and far beyond. – From USW letter to House subcommittee hearing on the Columbia Snake River System

Supply Chain and Transportation

Over the last seventy years, growers and their federal government partners at the U.S. Department of Agriculture have invested billions of dollars and countless hours to build strong relationships with our trading partners. The U.S. wheat industry differentiates itself by providing high-quality wheat and reliable delivery. The United States is a reliable trading partner in large part because of our world class, multi-modal infrastructure, which allow us to safely and efficiently ship products around the world. Any disruption to that system would hurt our ability to consistently provide abundant, high-value food products and remain competitive with other agricultural exporters in the world and weaken the competitiveness of U.S. producers in global markets.

Grain growers in PNW states are at the tip of the spear of those who would feel the disruption of having to divert export goods to trucking and rail because there is insufficient alternative transportation infrastructure to replace the barge shipments of grain along the Columbia Snake River System to export markets. For example, one loaded covered hopper barge carries over 58,000 bushels of wheat. It would take 113,187 semi-trailers each year carrying 910 bushels of wheat to replace the 103 million bushels shipped on the Snake River via barge annually. That is 310 more trucks each day, making round trips to the Tri-Cities, 365 days per year. To that end, barging is the most fuel-efficient mode of transportation when compared to railroads and trucking. Each barge that must be replaced by a truck means more pollution, more traffic, increased costs and increased wear and tear on our roads – and that’s if we could even hire the drivers needed to drive these trucks in the increasingly tight labor market for drivers.

Path Forward

We strongly believe that dams and salmon can and do co-exist. With a myriad of challenges facing the salmon population, we are committed to building upon current investments and technological advancements. Currently, the Lower Snake River Dams have world-class fish passage and juvenile survival rates upwards of 95 percent. We believe any work moving forward should build off the fish passages, instead of eliminating them. We also support investments made at the federal and state level for culvert removal, fish habitat restoration, toxin reduction, and predator abatement.


The opportunities to ensure salmon populations continue to grow do not have to come at the cost of destroying the integrity of the Columbia Snake River System and the livelihood of farmers. The importance of the river system for the agriculture industry, and particularly for grain growers across Washington, cannot be overstated. I look forward to discussing the importance of the four Lower Snake River Dams with you today. Thank you.

To read more about this issue, see these previous “Wheat Letter” posts:

Exports Depend on Snake River Dams

USW Expresses Support for Maintaining Lower Snake River Dams

Wheat Leaders: Protect Lower Snake River Dams


A month-long effort that had U.S. wheat farmers and industry experts presenting the 2023 Crop Quality Report to customers in more than two dozen countries is winding down with a collective sense of accomplishment.

It is believed at least one attendance record was set this year.

The annual series of U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) Crop Quality Seminars, which provide crucial information to customers and provide an opportunity for wheat buyers to interact and create a dialogue about the quality of the wheat crop, began in Sub-Saharan Africa on Nov. 1. Seminars in Central America/Caribbean and South Asia beginning soon after. Seminars in South America, the European Union and North Asia wrapped up on Nov. 20.

Only two dates remain: Seminars will take place in Dubai on Dec. 5 and Casablanca on Dec. 7.

Large Attendance

“The large attendance we saw this year highlights how much our customers value U.S. wheat’s timely and transparent information,” said USW Marketing Analyst Tyllor Ledford, who participated in her first Crop Quality Seminar. Ledford presented at the South Asia seminars (see photo above), which took place in the Philippines, Indonesia and Thailand. “Throughout the three seminars, we were able to reach customers from Thailand, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Vietnam, the Philippines, and Indonesia. The seminar in Bangkok was the largest on record, with nearly 140 participants.”

Attendance was strong throughout the 2023 Crop Quality Seminar series including here in Seoul, South Korea.

Attendance was strong throughout the 2023 Crop Quality Seminar series including here in Seoul, South Korea.

Producers Cory Kress (Idaho) and Aaron Kjelland (North Dakota) presented on New Technologies in Agriculture and Planting Decisions for Farmers. Likewise, U.S. country elevator managers Jason Middleton and Tyler Krause provided a presentation about grain origination and how it is handled at the first point of sale, in addition to by-class perspectives from exporters.

“The farmers and wheat buyers were happy to reconnect with familiar faces they had seen on trade team visits to the U.S. and other events,” said Ledford.

Positive Feedback

Erica Oakley, USW Vice President of Programs, said there has been a lot of positive feedback from each of the seven regions where Crop Quality Seminars were held.

“Our customers around the world have complimented U.S. wheat staff and presenters from our partner organizations,” said Oakley. “We had a lot of good information to share, so credit goes to the U.S. farmers who produced a high-quality wheat crop.”


USW’s Mexico City Office hosted more than 225 participants representing flour millers and wheat buyers from Belize, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Panama, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, and Venezuela.


The North Asia Crop Quality Seminar team traveled to Suzhou, China, and presented to about 160 flour millers, wheat buyers, and baking industry representatives. Guest of note included Ms. LaShonda McLeod Harper, Director of the USDA Foreign Agricultural Service Agricultural Trade Office in Shanghai, and the senior COFCO Wheat Department Manager Mr. Sun Wei who had just participated in a USW-sponsored trade team visit for COFCO managers to the United States.

Group of about 160 U.S. and Chinese wheat industry officials and managers at the 2023 USW Crop Quality Seminar in Shanghai, China, Nov. 2023.

About 160 wheat buyers, flour millers, and baking industry executives participated in the 2023 USW Crop Quality Seminar in Suzhou, China.


Montana wheat farmer Denise Conover greets Japanese wheat industry executives at a USW Crop Quality Seminar in Tokyo, Japan.

Montana wheat farmer Denise Conover greets Japanese wheat industry executives at the 2023 USW Crop Quality Seminar in Tokyo, Japan.

In Tokyo, Japan, 130 customers attended a Crop Quality seminar. Attendees included flour milling companies from across the region, Japanese traders, grain inspectors and members of the media.

“The participants were very satisfied with the presentations and engaged them in active discussions and questions to gain a deeper understanding of the quality of this year’s U.S. wheat crop,” said Rick Nakano, USW Country Director in Japan.

South Korea

A total of 90 participants, including customers from the flour milling and food processing industries, attended the seminar held in Seoul, South Korea. It was the first in-person seminar held in South Korea in three years.

“Customers expressed great satisfaction with the on-site Crop Quality Seminar,” said USW Country Director Dong-Chan “Channy” Bae. “Notably, despite the typically reserved nature of Korean attendees, there was an engaging discussion on the market, wheat quality, and logistics during a question-and-answer session.”

South America

Seminars in South America attracted a good number of customers, reports USW Regional Director Miguel Galdos.

“In the seminar held in Cali, Colombia, participants represented 30% of total wheat imports in Colombia,” he said. “Meanwhile, in Bogota, more than 35% of total wheat imports were represented.”

USW Regional Director Osvaldo Seco welcomes participants to a 2023 Crop Quality Seminar in South America.

USW Assistant Regional Director Osvaldo Seco welcomes participants to a 2023 Crop Quality Seminar in South America.

A seminar In Quito, Ecuador, drew companies accounting for at least 90% of U.S. wheat imports. The same can be said for seminars in Lima, Peru, and Santiago, Chile – both saw more than 90% of U.S. wheat purchases represented.

Sub-Saharan Africa

USW’s Cape Town Office conducted Crop Quality seminars in Nairobi, Kenya; Lagos, Nigeria; and Cape Town, South Africa. Presenting quality data from the 2023 harvest were Dr. Senay Simsek, Department Head for Food Science at Purdue University; Charlie Vogel, Executive Director of the Minnesota Wheat Research and Promotion Council; and Royce Schaneman Executive Director of the Nebraska Wheat Board.

Simsek presented on Solvent Retention Capacity (SRC) and industry analyst Mike Krueger presented via video on the world supply and demand situation for grains.

In Nairobi, USW also conducted a demonstration at the African Milling School using soft red winter (SRW) and hard red winter (HRW) for local products, such as chapati and mandazi.

By Ralph Loos, USW Director of Communications


“It was a challenging year,” said Oregon farmer David Brewer of the 2023 soft white (SW) wheat production season. “However, I believe that our investments into variety development and adoption of sustainable management practices have helped us ensure the best functionality from the 2023 crop.”

Seeding conditions were good in the fall of 2022 with sufficient moisture to get the soft white winter wheat crop off to a good start in the Pacific Northwest (PNW). Dryness set in just as the crop was breaking dormancy and turned hot as farmers seeded their spring SW. Hot, dry conditions persisted and accelerated maturity and harvest.

Those growing conditions affected yields, with SW production now estimated at 5.3 million metric tons (MMT) or almost 195 million bushels. That is 23% less SW than PNW farmers produced in 2022.

U.S. soft white wheat kernels

Soft white (SW) wheat.

The dry conditions also contributed to a SW crop with above-average protein. Yet, the crop has appropriately weak to medium gluten strength and acceptable or better finished product characteristics. Stocks of more typical protein SW from 2022 are also available to buyers. In addition, the higher protein SW in this crop provides opportunities in blends for crackers, Asian noodles, steamed breads, flat breads, and pan breads.

The following 2023 crop quality highlights include functional data for Club, a sub-class of SW with very weak gluten strength, typically used in a Western White blend with SW for cakes and delicate pastries.

U.S. Club wheat kernels

Club wheat.

2023 SW Crop Highlights

  • The overall average grade of the 2023 SW crop is U.S. No. 1 SW; Club average is also U.S. No. 1.
  • Test weight averages trended lower this year with an average of 60.3 lb/bu (79.3 kg/hl) for SW and 60.7 lb/bu (79.8 kg/hl) for Club.
  • Protein (12% mb) is higher this year with an average of 11.1% for SW and 10.6% for Club.
  • Falling number average is 336 sec or higher for all SW composites and 327 sec for Club.
  • Buhler Laboratory Mill average extraction for SW is 70.3%, and 72.1% for Club. Commercial mills should see better extractions, although some adjustments may be necessary for portions of the crop with lower test weights. Flour extractions should not be compared to last year or the 5-year average as the calculation has shifted from a total product weight basis to a tempered wheat weight basis.
  • Solvent Retention Capacity (SRC) lactic acid and water values for SW are 105% and 51%, respectively, indicating weak to medium gluten strength. Overall, SW composites have SRC profiles suitable for good cookie and cracker performance. Lactic acid and water SRC values for Club are 71% and 51%, respectively, and are indicative of very weak gluten with low water holding capacity.
  • Starch pasting properties include amylograph and RVA viscosities for SW and WC indicating the crop is suitable for batter-based products. The low protein SW composite average of 368 BU/2122 cP peak viscosity is reflective of a slightly lower falling number (313 sec). The overall SW and WC averages are similar to last year.
  • Soft white and Club dough properties are typical and suggest very weak to medium gluten strength and low water absorption values similar to their respective 2022 and 5-year averages.
  • Sponge cake volumes average 1089 cc for SW and 1110 cc for Club. Hardness value for SW is 353 g and 337 g for Club. All SW and Club cakes were baked from an experimentally milled straight grade flour. For comparison, control cakes baked at the same time from a commercially milled short patent cake flour (2022 harvest) have an average volume of 1205 cc and an average firmness of 242 g.
  • Cookie diameter values are 7.7 for SW and 7.9 for Club. Spread ratio for SW is 8.2 and 8.8 for Club. These values should not be compared to 2022 or the 5-year averages as the cookie method has changed as of 2023 (see analysis methods).
  • Average soft white pan bread bake absorption is 56.1% and loaf volume is 696 cc. Blends of hard wheat with up to 20% SW should produce acceptable pan breads, especially from higher protein SW.
  • Chinese southern-type steamed bread values for Club, and medium and high protein SW composites scored similar to or better than the control due to greater volume and whiter internal crumb color. Specific volume and total score averages are SW 2.7 mL/g, 70.8 and Club 2.7 mL, 70.7, respectively.

During the week of Sept. 25-29, U.S. Department of Agriculture Under Secretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs Alexis Taylor is leading an agribusiness trade mission to Chile. U.S. agribusinesses, including U.S. Wheat Associates (USW), are participating in business-to-business meetings with importers from both Chile and Peru.

The trade mission coincides with the USDA-endorsed Espacio Food and Service trade show, a major food show held in Santiago, Chile. USW joined several other U.S agricultural export promotional organizations in a USDA-SaborUSA Chile exhibit at the show. Under Secretary Taylor visited and offered remarks at the USW exhibit on Sept. 26. USW staff from the Santiago office shared these photos.

In the photo at the top of this page, USW Santiago Assistant Regional Director Osvaldo Seco and Program Coordinator Maria Fernanda Martinez show their pride in the USW exhibit with USW Baking Consultant Miguel Seguel.

Under Secretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs Alexis Taylor (right) is welcomed to the USW section of the SaborUSA Chile exhibit by USW Santiago Regional Director Miguel Galdos.

Under Secretary for Trade and Foreign Agricultural Affairs Alexis Taylor (right) is welcomed to the USW section of the SaborUSA Chile exhibit by USW Santiago Regional Director Miguel Galdos.

Greetings from USDA

Under Secretary Taylor making remarks at the SaborUSA Chile exhibit on Sept. 26.

Under Secretary Taylor making remarks at the SaborUSA Chile exhibit on Sept. 26. Of her visit and the trade delegation she is leading, Taylor said, “As we celebrate the 200th anniversary of U.S.-Chile relations, I am honored to lead such an incredible group as we work with Chilean importers on expanding our bilateral trade even further.”

Quality Wheat, Exquisite Bread

Artisan bread baked by USW consultant Miguel Seguel to demonstrate the quality and versatility of flour milled from U.S. wheat classes

Artisan bread baked by USW consultant Miguel Seguel to demonstrate the quality and versatility of flour milled from U.S. wheat classes had a prominent place in the SaborUSA Chile exhibit at the Espacio Food and Service trade show.

Chile is a well-developed wheat food market with a variety of products available. In 2022, U.S. wheat imports were valued at more than $100 million. Chile is currently ranked among the top 10 U.S. wheat importing countries in marketing year 2023/24 (June to May). Chilean flour millers import U.S. hard red winter (HRW) and hard red spring (HRS) wheat classes to produce flour for bread consumption. The bread is produced mainly by small artisan bakeries, as well as commercial and supermarket bakeries. To serve a growing cookie and cracker demand, U.S. soft red winter (SRW) and soft white (SW) wheat is imported.

Read more about the Chilean market for U.S. agricultural products here.


Federal officials including U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack joined Washington state lawmakers and university leaders in early August for the groundbreaking of a new U.S. Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS) Plant Sciences Building on the Washington State University (WSU) campus in Pullman.

ARS is USDA’s “in-house research agency” focused on delivering scientific solutions to national and global agricultural challenges. ARS conducts wheat quality research through four regional Wheat Quality Laboratories (WQLs) focused on wheat types commonly grown in its region, including the Western Wheat Quality Laboratory also located at WSU. U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) has strong partnerships with each WQL as well as universities like WSU.

The new building at WSU is planned for opening in 2025. The WSU Plant Pathology, Crop and Soil Sciences, and Horticulture departments will inhabit the new building alongside federal scientists and four ARS research units: Wheat Health, Genetics and Quality; Grain Legume Genetics and Physiology; Northwest Sustainable Agroecosystems; and Plant Germplasm Introduction and Testing.

At the ground-breaking ceremony, more than 150 guests listened as speakers discussed the 20-year path to securing support for this new facility.

U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack at a podium with the USDA seal addressing participants in a ground breaking ceremony for a new ARS Plant Sciences Building at Washington State University (WSU).

U. S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack. WSU Photo.

Secretary Vilsack asked attendees to think ahead to a future when the facility is completed, bustling with students, faculty, and researchers looking to solve the problems facing farmers in Washington and far beyond.

“There’s an effort to try to make sure that we understand how to deal with a particular disease that is impacting wheat production. And imagine the spark, the passion, the energy, the excitement that occurs when the solution is discovered. That’s what this facility is about, that moment of discovery,” he said.

Vilsack noted the new facility will not only be a place for discovery but also a resource that farmers both local and far afield of the Palouse will benefit from in the form of new techniques and greater insight into the vital work they do.

“To the extent that we have a university and a government research entity in partnership, ensuring that farmer, that rancher, that grower, that producer, can continue to be productive is an enormous opportunity for this country, and each one of us should be thankful at this groundbreaking for the science that’ll take place that’ll help these farmers, ranchers, and producers continue to productive,” Vilsack said.

Elizabeth Chilton, the inaugural chancellor of the WSU Pullman campus, noted that the groundbreaking represented much more than the beginning of a new research facility.

“It is evidence of the incredible partnership that WSU celebrates with USDA and our local, state, and federal legislators, commissioners, and communities,” Chilton said. “The groundbreaking research that this facility will support will literally change lives. This building will support faculty members, students, and researchers partnering together to create better crops and more sustainable farming practices so that we’re able to better feed our planet.”

Guests and dignitaries attending a ground breaking ceremony at Washington State University (WSU) for a new ARS Plant Sciences Building.

Washington Grain Commission Vice President Mary Palmer Sullivan (second from right) was among dignitaries and guests at the USDA-ARS Plant Sciences Building Groundbreaking ceremony on the campus of Washington State University Aug. 1, 2023. WSU Photo.

In addition to representatives from the federal government and Washington state agriculture groups (including Washington Grain Commission Vice President Mary Palmer Sullivan), WSU Board of Regents Chair Lisa Schauer and Regent Brent Blankenship, a Washington state wheat farmer and Past President of the National Association of Wheat Growers, also attended the events.

This article includes excerpts and photographs from an article in “WSU Insider” by RJ Wolcott. Read more here.


A business card to describe the jobs Art Schultheis fills in a typical year would be too big for any pocket.

“I drive a tractor and harvest with a combine – all the things people think a farmer does,” explained Schultheis, a fifth-generation farmer from Colton, Washington. “But behind the scenes I’m also a mechanic, I’m a bookkeeper, and, like most farmers, I have a whole long list of other jobs.”

Planning Ahead

On a late August afternoon, in a wheat field a dozen or so miles north of his home, Schultheis greeted a film crew (photo above) with a glance to the sky and a shrug. A soft rain had begun to fall, bringing that day’s harvest to a reluctant halt.

“I am not going to even try to predict it,” he announced to the film crew, while taking another glance upward. “But I think we may as well plan to get back at it tomorrow.”

Yet another job for Schultheis: planning strategist.

The film crew was commissioned by U.S. Wheat Associates (USW), which is collecting “Stories of Stewardship” from wheat farmers across the country to highlight their efforts to produce high-quality crop using sustainable practices.

In August, the 61-year-old Schultheis was harvesting his 40th wheat crop. His diversified operation typically grows hard red winter (HRW), soft white winter (SRW), hard red spring (HRS), and hard white spring wheat. The farm has also produced barley, garbanzo beans, lentils, Kentucky bluegrass seed, oats, canola, and alfalfa. There are also 10 beef cows to take care of.

Photo shows two men, farmers, standing next to each other and looking to the left side of the photo; in the background there is a tractor pulling a wagon through a golden wheat field.

Colton, Washington, farmers Art Schultheis, right, and his son Kyle Schultheis.

An Eye to the Future

Schultheis took over Diamond S Farms from his father more than three decades ago. With an eye to the future, his son Kyle has returned to the farm and is being mentored to one day take over all his father’s jobs. Bringing Kyle into the mix is part of the family’s approach to sustainability.

“To me, there are three parts to sustainability,” Schultheis explained. “Number one is I want to leave the land in better shape than when I started farming. Number two is my farm must be profitable. If you are not profitable, you are not sustainable. Number three is that you need a succession plan for your farm to continue to operate through generations.”

As the film crew set up the next morning to capture his story, Schultheis pointed out that sustainability is second nature to him and all other farmers.

“We have always cared for the land, but now we have tools that we never had decades ago,” he said. “We can do things today that we could not do in the past, and the soil keeps producing at higher and higher levels. One of my hopes for Kyle is that when I’m gone, he can stand here and say he learned things from me and makes the land even better than it will be once I call it quits.”

USW’s Stories of Stewardship series will be available for all to see and explore. It is expected to be of special interest to customers of U.S. wheat around the world.

Responsible as Possible

“I think consumers here in the United States and across the world are asking questions about where their food comes from,” said Schultheis. “On our farm, we do not raise commodities, we are raising food. And we need to be as responsible as possible because we know the end-consumer is making that connection between where food comes from and how it is produced. To be honest, it makes my job a lot more fun.”

And by his “job,” Schultheis means every single one of them.



Whitman County in eastern Washington State is the most productive wheat-producing county in the United States. There, near the town of St. John in “The Palouse,” the Bailey family has grown winter and spring soft white and club wheat and barley for three generations.

Erin Bailey and her father Mark Bailey working on equipment on their farm in eastern Washington state as part of the Stories of Stewardship campaign.

Erin Bailey and Mark Bailey farm with Mark’s brother Gary in eastern Washington’s Palouse country. “It is my responsibility to [farm] sustainably to provide for the next generations of our family,” Erin said.

Gary Bailey (above with a team of wheat buyers from Myanmar and Malaysia) farms with his brother Mark Bailey and Mark’s daughter Erin. He serves on the Washington Grain Commission and represents his state as a Director of U.S. Wheat Associates. He also serves on Washington State University’s Land Legacy Council.

“Whitman County has deep, fertile soils and adequate rainfall to produce a great dryland wheat crop,” Gary said. “And we want to keep it around for the next generation. So, we are doing whatever we can to maintain that soil base and, in fact, to improve it.”

Reducing Environmental Impact

According to the Washington Grain Commission, over many generations, wheat farmers in the state have embraced stewardship and successfully reduced their environmental footprint while remaining highly productive. The adoption of no-tillage and reduced tillage equipment and systems has helped them dramatically reduce soil erosion. Precision technology has helped reduce the volume of crop protection inputs needed to ensure wholesome and productive crops.

“Protecting our farmland is one of the major challenges we face,” said Mark Bailey. “So we have to continually change the ways we grow wheat and other crops and do the best job we can to keep those resources for the next generation and the next.”

Learn More

Gary, Mark, and Erin Bailey shared more about preserving their land and growing safe, wholesome wheat for their family and the world in the following video story produced in 2020.

U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) is reaching out to wheat farmers across the United States to learn how they strive to improve their land and manage resources. Each is committed to adapting to the many challenges they face and making choices that are best for the environment, their individual farms, and their customers. We are proud to share their “Stories of Stewardship.”

Drought conditions have grown progressively worse in the PNW over the last few months as temperatures increased rapidly and measurable precipitation remained scarce, depleting soil moisture and stressing the planted wheat crop.Source: NOAA Climate Prediction Center

Drought conditions have grown progressively worse in the PNW over the last few months as temperatures increased rapidly and measurable precipitation remained scarce, depleting soil moisture and stressing the planted wheat crop.
Source: NOAA Climate Prediction Center

Amid this year’s volatile markets and relatively slow demand, U.S. soft white wheat (SW) has provided many customers with buying opportunities, positioning itself as one of the most competitive classes of U.S. wheat.

In recent months, dryness in the Pacific Northwest (PNW) this spring dominated market news and discussions about quality. As harvest ramps up across the SW growing region, more information is expected to become available regarding SW production, yield, and quality. In the meantime, this article will recap the current soft white wheat situation and provide background on supply factors as harvest progresses in the PNW.

Production Outlook: A Tri-State Effort

White wheat is typically one of the classes with the most stable planted area. The June 30 USDA acreage estimates showed a slight increase in white wheat acres to 4.28 million acres, up from 4.24 million acres in 2022/23, with a specific increase in the SW producing state of Oregon. Despite the increased area, dry conditions have lingered, and have had a potentially detrimental impact on yield potential and quality. The USDA Crop Production Report released on July 12 forecasts SW production at 6.7 MMT, down from 7.4 MMT the year prior and 600,000 MT below the five-year average of 7.2 MMT. However, the forecast is still above the 2021/22 production levels of 5.47 MMT after severe drought diminished yield potential and increased protein levels.

On a per state basis, production potential differs throughout the growing region. Wheat production is forecast to be down in Washington and Oregon by 15% and 16%, respectively. Meanwhile, in Idaho, all wheat production is forecast at 2.45 MMT, down 2% from the year prior. Though the Idaho crop is behind on development, some growing regions have benefitted from cool weather and scattered showers.

2023/23 SW production is forecast at 6.7 MMT, down 9% from last year and 7% below the five-year average.Source: USDA ERS Wheat Data

2023/23 SW production is forecast at 6.7 MMT, down 9% from last year and 7% below the five-year average.
Source: USDA ERS Wheat Data

The Current Balance Sheet

Throughout the latter part of the 2022/23 marketing year, industry sources reported slow selling by farmers and increased stocks held on the farm. Due to the increased stocks held by farmers, beginning stocks for the 2023/24 marketing year increased by 500,000 MT to 2 MMT, the first stocks increase since 2020/21. Though protein levels of the 2023 crop are not yet known, the increased old crop wheat stocks can be blended with new crop to help meet customer specifications.

Moreover, SW prices have softened substantially over the past year, weighed down by recovered production in the 2022/23 crop year, decreased export demand, competition from other origins, and seasonal pressures as exporters more aggressively price SW into the global market. Over the last six months, SW prices have decreased from $321/MT in January 2023, to $263/MT in July 2023, their lowest level since November 2020. Furthermore, there has been little to no premium for max 9.5% protein versus max 10.5% protein throughout a majority of the 2022/23 crop year.

Despite the 9% decrease in SW production for 2023/24, total supply is down only 2% due to increased carryover stocks from the year prior. Source: USDA World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates

Despite the 9% decrease in SW production for 2023/24, total supply is down only 2% due to increased carryover stocks from the year prior.
Source: USDA World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates

Looking Ahead

As of July 17, the USDA crop progress report put winter wheat in Washington, Oregon, and Idaho at 6%, 15%, and 5% harvested, respectively. With little harvest progress and no quality data collected, no definitive information is yet available regarding SW production yield, and quality characteristics. Keep in mind that anecdotal evidence generally indicates that dryland areas and regions with shallow soil are harvested first. Thus, higher protein is expected to be registered early in the season.

U.S. Wheat Associates recommends closely monitoring the SW harvest and maintaining regular communication with your supplier regarding protein availability and premiums. For weekly updates to harvest and price information subscribe to the U.S. Wheat Associates Harvest Report and Price Report.

SW prices have softened substantially over the last six months, decreasing from $321/MT in January 2023, to $263/MT in July 2023. SW prices hover at their lowest level since November 2020, pressured by low demand, competition from other origins, and seasonal pressures.Source: U.S. Wheat Associates Price Report

SW prices have softened substantially over the last six months, decreasing from $321/MT in January 2023, to $263/MT in July 2023. SW prices hover at their lowest level since November 2020, pressured by low demand, competition from other origins, and seasonal pressures.
Source: U.S. Wheat Associates Price Report






Just one year ago, U.S. wheat prices hovered near record highs. The geopolitical ramifications of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine stoked supply concerns and fears of spiraling food price inflation, and India had just banned wheat exports, further fueling wheat supply fears.

Flash forward to the week of May 2, 2023, Chicago Board of Trade soft red winter wheat (SRW) futures traded at their lowest level since March of 2021 at $5.95/bushel, earning that class the elusive honor of being the cheapest wheat on the world market.

After months of high prices, SRW and soft white (SW) classes have finally become more price competitive, providing a buying opportunity for importers. In this article, we will look in-depth at the market conditions for U.S. soft wheat classes and the factors influencing the entire market.

U.S. soft white wheat futures prices.

U.S. wheat prices retreated significantly the week of May 5 to touch near two year lows before ending slightly higher, demonstrating how quickly price sentiment can shift, though soft red winter wheat prices have trended lower. Source: U.S. Wheat Associates Price Charting Tool.

Competitive U.S. Soft Wheat Classes

Looking back, the U.S. soft wheat classes were poised to be more competitive thanks to several positive supply-side factors. Last year, both SW and SRW registered above-average production. The SW harvest came in at 4% above the five-year average and 35% above the drought-afflicted 2021/22 crop, while SRW was 16% above the five-year average, even boasting two large crops at 9.8 MMT in 2021/22 and 9.1 MMT in 2022/23.

Moreover, heading into marketing year 2023/24, the production outlook for SRW and SW remains positive. According to the USDA Prospective Plantings Report, SRW planted area increased 18% to 7.8 million acres (3.1 hectares), while white wheat plantings are estimated up 2% at 4.33 million acres (1.75 million hectares). The combination of good production last year and a positive outlook for the 2023 crop helped position SW and SRW to capture demand and remain competitive on the world market.

With the production bump and increased global competition, U.S. soft wheat prices have steadily decreased in the last few weeks. For a brief moment on May 2, U.S. SRW was the cheapest wheat in the world, coming in on average $10.00/MT FOB less than French wheat, $14.00/MT less than Russian wheat, and $13.00/MT less than Ukrainian. As a result, the U.S. Wheat commercial sales recorded 145,000 MT of SRW last week, the entire quantity likely bound for China. Meanwhile, SW wheat FOB prices hovered at $275.00/MT compared to $288.00/MT for Australian Standard White.

U.S. soft white wheat FOB export prices.

U.S. soft wheat prices have trended lower in search of demand. Soft white wheat prices have decreased by 39% since April 2022, while SRW has dropped by 45%. Even since the start of 2023, prices have come down 12% and 18%, respectively. Source: U.S. Wheat Associates Price Report

Underlying Bearish Market Factors

In addition to the positive supply outlook for soft wheat classes, recent bearish market factors have also been at play, influencing all U.S. wheat class prices. Last week hard red spring (HRS hit a nearly two-year low of $7.58/bu while hard red winter wheat (HRW) breached the $8.00/bu barrier to close at $7.71/bu. Seasonal influences also contribute to a fall in prices, especially for the soft wheat classes with a looser balance sheet and optimistic production outlook. Farmers and exporters will need to clear out their bins as new crop approaches to make room for the upcoming harvest.

Additionally, In the last two weeks, rain has fallen on some of the most drought-afflicted areas of the U.S. Southern Plains. Before these showers, it had been over 270 days since 0.25 inches of moisture (6.35 mm) had been recorded in some areas. The rains helped relieve some price pressure as the market assessed the moisture’s impact on drought conditions in the HRW growing region.

Beware The Bull

Demonstrated by this week’s jump in futures prices from the previous week’s lows, bullish influences are always lurking, especially as the Black Sea conflict continues to be an unpredictable bullish influence. As the Black Sea Grain Initiative approaches its May 18 expiration date, the longevity of the corridor hinges on Russia’s continued cooperation.

Furthermore, though the major HRW growing region in the Southern Plains received needed rains, there is concern about its impact. Some say the showers were “too little too late” for the crop as many fields already face abandonment.

Map of NOAA's prediction of long-term drought showing how U.S. soft white wheat is outside of the drought area.

Despite the rains in the U.S. Southern Plains, drought persists throughout the central HRW growing region. The recent showers helped improve soil moisture but not enough to reverse the drought impacts. Source: U.S. Department of Agriculture Drought Monitor.

Key Takeaways

This week’s price movements are just the latest example of how quickly market sentiment can shift, especially with influences as unpredictable as the weather and the war in Ukraine. Amidst the persistent market volatility, buyers must be wary of the market trends and be positioned to take advantage of every buying opportunity. As always, U.S. Wheat Associates (USW) representatives are committed to helping customers capitalize on market opportunities and navigate the ever-changing wheat market.